Do I need school to be...

an educator/researcher? with ginger coons

September 02, 2021 Alex Villacís Season 1 Episode 6
Do I need school to be...
an educator/researcher? with ginger coons
Show Notes Transcript

This week’s guest is ginger "all-lower-case" coons. ginger is an educator, researcher and designer who studies and intervenes in the intersections of individuality, mass standards, and new production technologies. ginger is Course Leader of Graphic Design at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. In this episode we talk about her journey to getting a PhD, why her French teacher was so frustrated with her, why we learn the way we learn in formal Dutch Design education and more.

Find more about ginger here:
ginger’s profile on the WDKA
ginger’s Linkedin
ginger’s google scholar page

ginger’s recommendation:
Whisper of the Heart by Studio Ghibli
(Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. Nothing changes for you when you shop but affiliate marketing helps support the podcast)

In an effort to make this podcast accessible, we make transcripts of every episode. You’ll find the transcripts on our website here, https://doineedschooltobe.buzzsprout.com

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ginger coons:

One day, my French teacher, in my last year of high school, made me come in for a meeting with my mother after school. And the thing that I still remember now all these years later is her saying to my mother: "It's not that ginger is stupid. I could live with that and I could put up with, it's that she can do better. And she doesn't."

Alex Villacis:

Hello, friends, and welcome back to another episode of Do I Need School To Be a podcast in which me Alex is going to sit down with people in the creative field. And I'll ask them questions about their journey here, more specifically about their education, how they learned or trade, who are their mentors, what books influenced them, and hopefully find some answers that can maybe guide you in your creative journey. Everybody's different, and we all learn in different ways. So of course, we're all going to take different paths and all are valid. In this show. I am celebrating any type of education and any type of teacher that taught you a lesson because anything can be a teacher. My guest today is the lovely ginger, Coons, ginger, all lower caps coons To be more specific. ginger enjoy it's a very fun teacher, I've had the pleasure to take classes with. She is the course leader of graphic design at the villa mechanic Academy, in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, where I live. And she's a very curious, passionate, fun person. It's truly a delight to know her in real life. And I was honoured to have her on this episode, because she's pretty great. And she tells us about how going to school in Canada was doing French immersion, how she decided to go the PhD route. And honestly, I don't know about you, but I don't know that many people who have PhDs. And I've always wanted to dig into their brains and ask them why. But here I have somebody that can tell me that. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with a wonderful ginger coons. And we're recording. Okay. Hi, ginger. How are you today?

ginger coons:

I'm very well, how are you doing?

Alex Villacis:

I am very good, very excited to have my first face to face interview without a screening between us. So this is so strange. Like I really don't know what to do with my hands though. So I would just do this. So ginger, all lowercase Coons, and we are in the second floor of the WDKA in Rotterdam. So this is the podcast where I talk to creative people, creative professionals, students, chefs, innovators, I decorated maker a fashion designer, about creative education. So what their journey has been like, and where you can go into future. So introduce yourself to the audience and tell us what you're doing today. Well, currently.

ginger coons:

yeah, today is a difficult question. My name is ginger Coons. And I am making sounds that microphones don't like. That's what I'm doing. I am one of the course leaders of the graphic design programme at the film decoding Academy in Rotterdam. In addition to being in the leadership of the graphic design programme, I am also a research lecturer in the commercial practices, also at the bones gunning among many other little side jobs at the art school. And then strangely, I have a background in Information Studies. So I come from an academic background, actually, yes, vacation for oma, I have a PhD.

Alex Villacis:

I am so impressed right now. I don't know that many people with PhDs. I know one of my friends is currently getting her PhD in something that has to do with radiology and electromagnetic waves. And she's suffering because of her thesis. I've heard that thesis for a PhD. It's a very traumatic experience.

ginger coons:

They're difficult. They're a lot of work. At least.

Alex Villacis:

I cannot even imagine. Yeah, maybe one day who knows?

ginger coons:

You never know. Right?

Alex Villacis:

So you got here through formal education?

ginger coons:

I did. Well, yeah. So I my original education is I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design, which is just how the school I went to was everyone got a BFA, because we were a faculty of Fine Arts within a bigger University. But then I went to grad school and got a master's degree and got a PhD in Information Studies. And then I bumped around a bit wound up doing a postdoctoral fellowship in the UK, at a we're at a place called the digital cultures Research Centre. That's, that's multiple. Yeah, yeah, it's, it's great. It's the digital cultures Research Centre at the University of The West of England. So it's a massive mouthful of letters.

Alex Villacis:

I'm trying to figure out like for the Willem de Konig Academy we have WDKA. And for the Rhode Island School of Design, you have RISD Yeah. What would be?

ginger coons:

The DCRC.

Alex Villacis:

The DCRC sounds funny.

ginger coons:

At UE.

Alex Villacis:

At UE.

ginger coons:

Yeah, easy? Yeah, EU Bristle is the home of the DCRC.

Alex Villacis:

Wow.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

And what this always attracted, you wanted to take the academic one?

ginger coons:

Umm always maybe too strong a word. I realised during my bachelor's degree that I wanted to pursue a career in academia. Because I sort of looked at what I liked doing, and had the realisation that What I enjoy most is being able to define my own problems and chase my own interests. And at the time, when I was about 21, I thought there are two ways I can do that I can either be an entrepreneur, or I can be an academic. So I chose academic.

Alex Villacis:

Nice.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

And I have taken you I have personally taken your lectures. And I can honestly say that I love them.

ginger coons:

I'm delighted by that

Alex Villacis:

It was this, you have the skill, at least for me to take a topic like maps, and make it surprisingly interesting.

ginger coons:

It is interesting.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. But to me, I remember going to this exhibition in Paris with my grandma, and my, and it was all about maps. And by the end of it, it was two hours. And I was so drained, because it was so complicated and felt so foreign to me. But you took the topic and brought it to a level that everyone can understand it. And being just showed us how even political they can get.

ginger coons:

Absolutely.

Alex Villacis:

So it was it was that that's what impressed me the most. Like, I never thought you took the topic and you spun it around. For to make it interesting for us.

ginger coons:

Yeah, I mean, that's the goal. Right? Yeah. I

Alex Villacis:

remember screaming slaves at one point. It was not like, it made sense. Like, you know, the stories are probably like, added in, in the post. But it's a good story.

ginger coons:

Yeah, yeah. It's a complex story, right? It's a complex story. Yeah. Because it's all I mean, maps aren't just about maps, right? maps are about representation. They're about globalisation. They're about the domination by generally the west of other cultures, right? There's so much packed into a map.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. So then, yeah, and that comes from your own research. And from you find a topic that you thought was curious, a problem and then finding your own solution to it?

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, to an extent. I mean, I would say like, the purpose of the maps, it's, it's, I like that you remember it as being electro boat maps, because to me, it's what I refer to as the immutable mobiles lecture.

Alex Villacis:

I remember the maps.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, but so for me, it's a lecture about immutable mobiles, which is a concept from science and technology studies, which is my area, right? Like, that's, officially my PhD is in information. But you know, I think of myself as someone who does science and technology studies. So for me, it's sort of I'm trying to introduce this topic, this concept of immutable mumbles, that is useful in the context of the class you're taking. And so I use things like maps, or dense notation, or the legal vault, as a way of explaining the concept of immutable models. So what you may come away with is a story about maps, but the maps are just one of the different sort of ways of articulating that same concept.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, it's like a house and you're that you're there is this house? And that's one window to look inside and see why. Yeah, that's great. And did you always know that you wanted to, like spread information to be understandable to others?

ginger coons:

Um, no, I'm not sure I did. I mean, when I was little, I was very into writing. So that's always you know, communicating with others has always been part of what I do. And I have a big mouth. So I do like talking in public, which I think is, you know, it's a useful thing for a teacher to talk in public. It is, right. It's also a useful thing for a researcher. Because you need to do research dissemination. So you know, I tend to see that research, but I think not just meet lots of people say that researchers are also fundamentally writers. Because you have to be, right.

Alex Villacis:

Yes. And a storyteller, because you have to tell a story with Yeah, your topic.

ginger coons:

Exactly. Yeah, you have to communicate something to someone else, right. Just doing the research is not enough. In most fields, right. Whether it's academia or design, you need a way to communicate what you've learned.

Alex Villacis:

That's very true. I think, in my mind, like coming from at least before when before I started the Willem de Koning Academy, when they talked about the research station. I thought, Oh, those are like people Live in the library people that are introverts, people that don't interact with anybody except books on the internet. But as time goes by there is I really enjoyed researching I enjoy, like talking to people and asking them questions clearly because have a podcast. But it goes beyond that, like we're doing next Design Lab. I really like interacting with the hosts and asking them, hey, how do you do this? Or go and do surveys and then presenting all that?

ginger coons:

Exactly.

Alex Villacis:

So yeah, there's a different concept of what a researcher is.

ginger coons:

Yeah, totally. I mean, you know, you ask yourself, what's the research for? Right? Why are you doing it?

Alex Villacis:

Oh, that's very true.

ginger coons:

There's always a reason, right?

Alex Villacis:

And the, did you always feel this way? Or was it a teacher? Like you have a very long career with teachers? mentors and tutors? Yeah. Are there any that are like stamped in the back of your head for good or bad reasons? Because let's face it, I had somebody in the podcast. Yeah, who his name is Randall. He's great. He's the voice of clubhouse, okay. And he told me that he had this one teacher that when he graduated high school, the teacher handed him his diploma and said, You will never amount to anything in this life. And that's horrible. Or somebody that told him, you're too ugly for radio, when he was studying communications, but he took those negative experiences as challenges. Yeah. But also you can have teachers to just deter you from a topic whatsoever. So what's going to teach us Did you have like the good ones that inspired you and shaped you? Or maybe some of like, maybe share with us a good and a bad story?

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, well, I have a middling one. So what's really important for me? I would say neither good nor bad. Just honest. Okay. Well, there we go. So I went to school in we have this thing in Canada called French immersion. So it's you go to school in French. Even though French isn't your first language.

Alex Villacis:

French immersion? Sounds like a movie title?

Ro Halfhide:

It does. I think it might be I don't know. It does sound like it, doesnt it?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, sounds sounds like this story of a boy that goes to a small Tony brass to fall in love with five different French women. The french Immersion.

ginger coons:

Sounds good, I would watch that.

Alex Villacis:

Coming out this summer

ginger coons:

Yeah, why not? Right. So I went to school in French, even though I'm an Anglophone, which meant needing to take a French class every year, and then lots of other courses in French, right. Like, I didn't take any English in school until I was 10. I think I spent the first five years of my education only in French. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. before they even introduced English as a subject, you know?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. Sounds intense.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah. Well, I mean, you don't notice it when you're a kid. Yeah, that's very true. It's another language. Right? And then you learn it. Because children are really good at learning languages.

Alex Villacis:

Oh, they're so smart. Yeah,

Ro Halfhide:

I know. Right. So flexible. But so in my last year of high school, I had checked out pretty significantly of school. By the time I was 17, I was just sort of doing the things I wanted to do. And not always being very present at school. Yeah, totally. Oh, my goodness, so many people who have PhDs were very bad students at some other point in their real well being It looks so I'm a specialist in something. Right. And I happen to also be very interested in many, many things at this point in my life. But I mean, when I was a teenager, if something didn't interest me, I would just check out, you know, yeah, like you just go in. That's not what I want to spend my time on, you know, and do something else. Right, that can manifest later as becoming really obsessed with one thing, right? Wow. So yeah, bad students make good PhD students. A lot of the time.

Alex Villacis:

I think people listen to this podcast will be like, so I can be a good PhD student!

ginger coons:

Of course, if you can be interested obsessively in one thing and be willing to work very hard on it. You can do a PhD. You have to stay interested in something for four years and be willing to work hard.

Alex Villacis:

So you're obsessive?

ginger coons:

Oh, yeah.

Alex Villacis:

Okay, that's the story.

ginger coons:

Yeah, anything, pick something that you can actually care about for four years? That's the trick.

Alex Villacis:

Oh, wow. That's not complicated.

Ro Halfhide:

The choice is not that bad.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. Once you get it, you get it. It has to click.

ginger coons:

Yeah. Well, and you know, I mean, a thing I say to students here all the time, when we're pestering them about what's your artistic vision, which is a question that everyone gets asked like three times in their education, at least by a committee. All right. Yeah. High Stakes examination.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, that's a fun question.

ginger coons:

Yeah. But what we always say is it doesn't need to be forever. You just need to decide now. Right? decide now for now, by all means, change your mind. Right?

Alex Villacis:

I think the fun thing about at least for me, is that artistic vision is that it only got more specific with time. Yes. So it's like your see rolling down into it. Exactly. And you're going from swimming in a lake to swimming in a pool to swimming in a kiddie pool. Yeah. And then eventually He's up, except eventually have a glass of water you can hold in your hands and be like this.

ginger coons:

Exactly

Alex Villacis:

I have it, a PhD

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah. For now. And then you throw it over your shoulder and get a new swimming pool.

Alex Villacis:

That's very true. Yeah. So are very, not a great student or not very interested in school.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, no. So I wasn't very, let's put it this way in high school, I was interested in the things I was interested in. So I would be, you know, top of my class in my entrepreneurship class.

Alex Villacis:

Humble brag, humblebrag. Yes, yes.

Ro Halfhide:

Or, you know, really good at English classes. I failed math twice. Right. Yeah. And took math in summer school, you know, was consistently a year behind and it stopped science as soon as it stopped being mandatory. Right. Like, I haven't been in a formal science class since I was 15. Oh, wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But French was mandatory. So I couldn't stop unless I wanted to drop out of French immersion. But I was not putting an effort in. And one day, my French teacher, in my last year of high school, made me come in for a meeting with my mother after school. And the thing that I still remember now, all these years later, is her saying to my mother, it's not that ginger is stupid. I could live with that. And I could put up with it's that she can do better. And she doesn't.

Alex Villacis:

Wow

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

I could live with that I can I can live with stupid.

ginger coons:

Exactly. She knows what to do with the stupid student, right? She knows what to do with someone who she can tell doesn't have the capacity for it. But the fact that I could have done better and refuse to bothered her.

Alex Villacis:

Well, that's a very caring teacher. Exactly. Yeah, she was she was brilliant. She was invested in your journey.

ginger coons:

Absolutely. And she was irritated by it, which I love. I love that she was irritated that I would not be bothered to do well in French class. Right? It's amazing.

Alex Villacis:

And that she was like, really passionate person to be like, this student like she could do better. She's just not doing it.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

I imagined like watching a movie and you're like rooting for the main character, and they keep not doing what you want to do.

ginger coons:

And so exactly, it's super frustrating.

Alex Villacis:

And that's what screaming at the screen just go through the door and like, just try something else. I just have the door already. Yeah.

Ro Halfhide:

It's like, I was watching. This makes no sense without context, but I'm gonna put it here without context. Anyway. I was watching a video where you're in the first person perspective of someone making a cup of tea.

Alex Villacis:

Okay. Yes. Interesting.

ginger coons:

Yeah. And what drove me up the wall in this video was, so you're, there's a set of disembodied hands in front of you doing all of the tea making things? Because it's like an augmented reality experience. Right? So you're supposed to imagine that it's your hands making the tea. Okay. But so they put the kettle on to boil, they got the mug. And then they waited until after the kettle had boiled to get the tea bag. Which I cannot handle. Right. It was intensely frustrating. I was sitting there go and get the tea bag. Get the TiVo get the tea bag. You know while the kettle is boiling, boiling. Get the tea bag, right? Yeah, it's wait. You're wasting time. Get the tea bag for it's put it on a mug.

Alex Villacis:

What were they doing while the water was boiling? Looking at it?

Ro Halfhide:

Yes. Watching the kettle boil. standing around. That is frustrating, right?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, I don't get why. Maybe that was the point. It is maybe the tiny thing that irritates you?

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, but it's so when you say you know about the protagonist in movie who's not doing what you want them to do? Yeah. Oh, you know, that's how I felt with that tea bag.

Alex Villacis:

Or like the teacher looking at the student or thinking you could do better?

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, push yourself, right?

Alex Villacis:

And how did that influence you? I you find it funny that you find the just the rebellious students say like HA,

Ro Halfhide:

I don't remember how I felt at the time I passed French class. I did not feel it. So that's something. And you know, it was my final year of high school. So that was the year that really mattered in terms of grades for me to get into university. And I did sufficiently well in enough things to be able to get into the school. I wanted to go to Nice. Yeah. I mean, there was also a portfolio. So you know,

Alex Villacis:

but a collection again? humblebrag. There was also a portfolio. Yeah.

ginger coons:

Well, I mean, you have to have a portfolio for historic schools, right? That's richer, but no. And what I mean by that is, you know, admission wasn't purely based on grades. It was also based on what's the other stuff you do, right. Like it was quite a, an involved process to get into the school I went to, you know, there were letters of reference and bla bla bla bla bla. But no, what mattered was or what has mattered about what that teacher said is how I've carried it with me. So I honestly don't remember how I responded at the time. But every time I meet a student, who is like I was when I was 17 or Remember what she said? Wow. Yeah. And at first when I had just started teaching, so I started as a teaching assistant during my PhD. That was the first time I formally taught post secondary education. And the first student like that, who I encountered, irritated by. There's like, why aren't you trying, I can see, you can do this, and you're not doing it. And that was when it first clicked in my head. But I was now my French teacher, watching a student refusing to do well, when they had the capacity to do well.

Alex Villacis:

How the tables have turned

ginger coons:

me, I've become far more relaxed since then. Right? Like, I no longer get frustrated by those students. Because I assume that there's something else going on. Or there's a reason or I haven't found the way to get them engaged yet. So rather than get frustrated, I just try to find the angle, you know, that gets them into it or accept that maybe they're not into it. Which is also possible. That's also possible. Yeah. And it's okay. You don't have to be into everything. Right.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, that's very true. I always go back to these getting feedback. And that's the next point that can make you as a teacher. Yeah. And I think one of the most challenging things as a creative person is getting feedback and getting the feedback that you don't want to get. Yeah. And I remember when I did my first assigned education in Germany, my my classmates would cry at the process of getting feedback. And so yeah, but I love it. I love the thing that I didn't like, Yeah, but this is not against you as a person. They can just do like your work that has nothing to do with you. And also you get a quote from Dita Von Teese. I read somewhere. It's a you can be the sweetest juicy as most beautiful peach in the world. And there are people who don't like peaches. I personally don't like peaches. It's a thing about me. I don't like the fuzziness. I don't like the taste. I don't like it at all. Yeah, so yeah, there can be a topic that's super interesting. But you just, it doesn't click. It's not just, it's just not you.

ginger coons:

Exactly. Yeah, totally.

Alex Villacis:

So now you as a teacher, I have had this as I have taken a lecture by you, and I loved it. So and you're saying now that you're more relaxed. So when you see a student, that it's not just not just the topic, he's, you take it from many angles, so you have a more global perspective about what a student is going through. How would you describe yourself? If lets say to tease it, if somebody wanted walked into a classroom with you? How do you want them to feel?

ginger coons:

I mean, there's a lot of buzzwords that we like using about education here. We like the phrase learning learning community is a phrase we throw around a lot at the WDKA And, you know, I think most people really believe in that as well. It's not just a phrase that we use. Because, you know, what I want, when I teach is to help students learn the things that they want to learn, while also learning the things that I want them to learn. Because one of this, I don't I don't know whether this sounds horrible or good. We'll see. We'll see in a second.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, in a second.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah. But I think one of the points of formal education is that it somehow differs from the education you could give yourself. So you know, there's a difference between taking a bachelor's degree in philosophy and reading a bunch of philosophy books that you find in whatever way, right, there's a structural difference in terms of things like the selection of books, the context that they're placed into, how you think about them how you were asked to think about them. And so one of the conflicts in being a teacher is that you are attempting to give your students the tools they need to chase the things that they're interested in, while also trying to give them the toolset that you think they need.

Alex Villacis:

So it is a delicate dance. Yeah, totally clean what what they want, when you want. That links beautifully to somebody that I interviewed before Josh Loera, and he's an illustrator. And he went to university formal education, to become an engineer, became an engineer, then move to what Amala with his girlfriend and transitioning to illustration, and that's all self taught. Yeah. And the takeaway from the episode coming from him was that formal education needs to offer us something that we cannot learn online for free. Yes. And that agrees perfect what you're saying.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think that is these days. That is the one major difference. Because knowledge is free, as we know, you know, like, we have access to all the knowledge in the world, but then the trick is, what do you do with it? How do you handle it? How do you triage it? You know, how do you assess what you need and what you don't need? at a given point in time? Right? And that's one of the things formal education does. It gives you a framework, and it gives you someone else's considered idea of what is necessary in their field, right? Because I mean, when we're sitting here in Dutch art school, you know, it's not just me deciding what I want to teach, right? I mean, even if I'm the course leader, okay, maybe I've developed the curriculum. So maybe I have actually decided what the learning outcomes are supposed to be. That's not normal, right? Most teachers are not deciding for themselves what the learning outcomes are. Someone else is doing that when they develop the curriculum. But then the learning outcomes also come from this big list of potential learning outcomes at different educational levels. And that's decided somewhere else. And that's based on, you know, consultations amongst all of the art schools in the country, and a bunch of external experts about what is important for a designer or an artist to be able to know or do or what kind of attitude is important for an artist or designer? Right. So even though I'm assessing you on something, you know, at the sort of the sharp point, when you are, you know, taking a class is not necessarily based on what I think you should know, some of it is, but most of it is based on what a bunch of experts on a national level think is important for a designer to know.

Alex Villacis:

Have you seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada?

ginger coons:

Oh, a million years ago, only once.

Alex Villacis:

I wish I could insert a piece or take the audio from the scene without getting sued by whoever made the movie. I don't know who the editor is or to belong to owns the rights. But there is this scene in which and the Anne Hathaway comes to the office of Meryl Streep. And she's like, I don't care about this stuff. And Meryl Streep just gives her a rundown of why she's wearing the thing that she's wearing, yeah, that she thinks she just picked it up at a store. But she's like, no, that glue comes from a series of decisions that were made a series of events to happen, so you could get to bind that. And then, of course, trashes her on the fact that she's wearing that blue. But I get the same feeling right now that it's I think it's a, there's a whole other thing going behind

Ro Halfhide:

my gaudium.

Alex Villacis:

It's getting to the curriculum that we have now. And the reason that we're learning that is that we're learning and why we're learning them. And I have to say that for me that my favourite thing about the WDKA is that you get a lot of access to a lot of tools, thinking and I talked to Josh about in the podcast that I could learn technically how to silkscreen totally on YouTube. Yeah. But I don't have access to the machines to do it. And here we get, like the workshop that he said the introduction, it's like one hour and then now do it. Yeah. Now do it. Here is a lot of books about silk screening. Why would you like and then we get the assignments and the feed them and how to do it. So we are getting things from education that we would not get otherwise. Or we could wait, but it will take a lot longer. Yeah. And it's also coming from a global perspective.

ginger coons:

Absolutely. I mean, what's funny is I learned how to silkscreen on my own. Right? When I was a teenager. I just learned how to silkscreen nice one weekend or whatever. You know, I got my first screen and I got ink and I got a squeegee. squeegee. Yeah, and I did you know, paper stencils, right? I didn't do the, the actual UV process, you know, so I was just doing paper stencils, silk screening, throughout high school and university, right. And once at one point, very jealous of one of my roommates, who was studying fine art at the same school, who, you know, got to formally learn how to silkscreen, right? You have a different thing, exactly different beasts, right, he had access to all of the equipment, because his programme was doing that, in a Never mind that I learned how to vacuum form things and, you know, like, use big saws and stuff. But, you know, I was very jealous at the time. But I think, you know, like, the, the technical stuff, of course, is what's visible to students, right like that. And, of course, you know, I do not mean to do down the access to equipment, it's a really big deal, right. It's one of the best things about this school, is that we have amazing workshops. But I think the less visible thing is the series of choices that go into what you learn. Yeah, you know, no one really notices that when they're on the the end of it, right?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, that's very true. It's like looking back on the journey. I remember like being the first year in God hating that Godzilla site and hating it, and then being in second year thinking like, why am I doing this, but then you get to third or fourth year and you're like, So that's why I did that. That's why I did that. That makes no sense that I understand that now and just finding those threads. And it's usually around the time of assessments of the competency assessments. You're like, Oh, so I can take I can take a little bit from that. Yeah. And it's just like having that macro vision. We were stuck in the middle of it. We don't see it until,

Ro Halfhide:

yeah, yeah. But I mean, that's one of the points of the competence assessment, right, that we make you look at, here's a set of skills you're supposed to have, here's how we define them. What have you done, that meets these criteria? Because then you're assessing yourself?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. I think also the part of assessments very important in formal education, because they make you self reflect and be like, okay, it's, it's not just people judging you, which is how it feels sometimes. Yeah, it's also self reflection. And you can be or at least now, and that leads me to my next question about creative education in the future, that now we have the internet. And we can put things on social media and be like, I made this and you're almost in a vacuum of people who like your work. So everything you do, they like, and they just like hearts, hearts, hearts, great comments everywhere. And usually the people who have given you, a counterpoint are not coming from the best place, they're coming from jealousy or they're coming from, they just don't like your work or they just don't like you for any reason. But when you're in formal education, that people will give you the counterpoints only interest most way most times is to make you better. To push you forward. Yeah. To say, I know you can do this. Yeah. Why are you not doing it?

ginger coons:

Exactly. Try harder.

Alex Villacis:

Try harder. Yeah. So where do you see education going in the future? Or where do you think it will develop? Me? We're seeing a lot of change. Now with people saying, I can just learn this on the internet. Yeah, what do you see will grow or change?

Ro Halfhide:

grow and change? No, it's one.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. Growing change? Good, good. One of the competences.

ginger coons:

Good plug. Um, no, I think, you know, a lot of teachers I know. And I, myself have found the last year really frustrating. Because a lot of the things that we really value about education are very hard to implement in an online educational environment.

Alex Villacis:

In case you're listening to this in the future, we're talking about the 2020 COVID pandemic, that changed the way education took place. Please, continue.

ginger coons:

Good catch. Yeah, but a lot of you know, a lot of our educators I know, find it extremely difficult to deliver a high quality education on the internet. Because I think, again, you know, something a lot of students don't notice, is the roll or rabbit certain this, but this way, they don't notice until they don't have it. And then they definitely notice that it's missing, but the role that your peers play in your education. Right.

Alex Villacis:

Okay.

ginger coons:

It's a big, big, big deal. So, I mean, there's so when I was first taught how to be a teacher, which was the thing I was taught in grad school, when I was, you know, learning how to be a teaching assistant. I was taught that, you know, people used to teach in a style that is now known as this is an air quotes sage on the stage. It's an adorable rhyme, it means person at the front lecturing at you, and students passively receiving. Right. And at the time, we were taught that there is a hierarchy of retention, so you retain the least of what you're hearing, when you are just hearing a lecture from someone else passively. You learn slightly more you retain slightly more if you take notes actively while listening. you retain more if there's a slide deck, etc, etc, etc. up to the top level, where you retain most when you teach someone else to do it.

Alex Villacis:

Awesome. That learn one teach ones. Yeah,

ginger coons:

exactly. Yeah. So anything where you are having to implement what you've learned or explain it to someone else, is the best way to learn. It's the best way to retain knowledge, and it's the best way to internalise it. Yeah, way more effective than listening to someone go near my mom, remember.

Alex Villacis:

I remember listening to Charlie Browns teacher

ginger coons:

Precisely. Yeah. Charlie Brown's teacher is not an effective way to teach. Right? Yeah, yeah. So your peers are super important in your education. And most teachers know that. Most teachers know that having people work in groups is really important and really effective. Having you know, educational periods that are broken up into blocks where say, you learn something, again, the air quotes, right, but you are told something, and then you have to implement it in an exercise or you have to do something with colleagues. Things sort of thing I like doing it's very sneaky. When I am teaching People about web design. You mercifully escaped that, because I was not teaching first year when you were in first year. Oh, okay. But when I teach people how to do web design, you know, we have in class moments of working on websites. So we're like writing HTML and CSS from scratch in a text editor. And you know, of course, some people already know how to do a bit of that. But then what you do is you make a point of sticking the students who are bored because they already know what they're doing with the ones who are struggling. Because then they share their knowledge. And then the person who already knows it, is having it solidified for them because they're teaching someone else. More people are getting help, because you have more helpers, right? It's not just up to the teacher, to help everyone who's having a problem. And the people who are struggling are learning from a peer instead of from a teacher. So it's lower stakes.

Alex Villacis:

There's the whole entire chain system. very sneaky. Very, very sneaky. And that's really interesting. I also, like I always tell people, I started this whole podcasting journey with our mid actually like, what happened years ago? Yeah. And we always said, like, oh, we're gonna do it. But we never did it. It wasn't until I did my internship, and I had to do a podcast. And I got into cop house, and I had to file and I found this great podcasting community. Yeah. So I love clubhouse, but there are also a lot of people who are explaining NFT's and being employed in cryptocurrency in it. And I was in a room and they were talking like, yeah, I'm the NFT. Expert. And I said, like, Okay, cool. Explain it to me as if I was four years old. Explain it to me how you were explaining it to a child who has never not heard the word Bitcoin before. And the first one what so if the thing is that I don't get to that point is like, then you don't get it? If you cannot explain that to a child, then you don't fully understand it. So it sounds similar to what you're saying that you're putting up here in the period say that you're an expert in this?

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

Now, explain to somebody else, because then you have to rethink what words Am I using? Can I use the word? can I explain JavaScript to somebody who doesn't understand JavaScript? Yeah. And just again, that self assessment, that feedback loop of, is this person understanding what I'm saying? Are they able to repeat what I'm saying? Yeah, if they're not what mistakes in my making? or How can I grow from it?

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, how do I rephrase it? Right? How do I see it in another way? How do I come at it from a different angle to make it comprehensible? Come out in a different way?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, that's the thing. How do I how do I tackle this? from a point that they understand? And they can do it for themselves?

ginger coons:

Yeah. And then you understand it better? Because you've had to see it from three different angles in order to help someone else understand it at all.

Alex Villacis:

That's so true. Because and then you develop this entire new lexicon from going from your own set of skills and words to then those from somebody else. And the more people you teach, the better this toolkit becomes.

ginger coons:

Yeah

Alex Villacis:

That's so cool. I never thought about it that way.

ginger coons:

Teachers are very sneaky.

Alex Villacis:

Also very manipulative

Ro Halfhide:

It's not manipulative, if you explain it beforehand, that's for sure.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, consent is always important.

ginger coons:

Yeah. So I tried to do that, right. Because I mean, you know, a complaint you often hear from teachers is, you know, some some form of this, you know, my students don't recognise that the things I'm telling them are important. And so sometimes you hear that in the case of, you know, my students have gone on an internship. And suddenly, they're seeing back to me all of the things I've said to them for the last three years, but they think they've just learned that, right? You hear this sometimes or two years after they graduate students realise the value of their education. But I think these things, in part come from the fact that we're not telling our students as we're going along, why we're doing the things we're doing. We're not explaining what the processes, we're not eliminating the fact that, you know, I'm not just sticking two people together to minimise my workload. I'm sticking them together so that they both learn better. Okay, yeah. So when you explain why you're doing a particular form of work, you know, it still doesn't work, right. Like, most people will still not sort of internalise why that's important. But at least you're sort of, you know, making the space for people to understand that your decisions aren't arbitrary. Because if you're the teacher and you have power, you know, then it can feel for students as if your behaviour is arbitrary, or based on what you want to do. Not based on for example, you know, existing educational research, right, so like when I do spaced, repetition, repetition. I'm going to See the word again? When I do spaced repetition in a class, so I teach something once. And then about a month later I teach it again, that's based on existing educational research, you learn better when you learn it a second time. If you learn it only once, chances are good, you're not going to keep it. Right. So students learn better when they have spaced repetition.

Alex Villacis:

Wow

ginger coons:

yeah, this is why we teach you to make a website twice, sometimes three times depending on the structure of the first year.

Alex Villacis:

And also, because of the time that you have gotten in between you have added knowledge the second time you learn it, you have more context to it. Yeah. Yeah. So would you say that adding more transparency to these two teaching methods would be something that we could implement in the future of cooperative education to be like, we're not just doing this for the sake of doing it. There's a there's a bigger thing happening.

Ro Halfhide:

I think what's really funny about that, is that to an extent that, at one point, it happened more. Right. Like, if you look at the Bauhaus, they were very into explaining why the education works the way it did. Oh, yeah. So there were publications on it, you know, there were diagrams, how does this education work? What are the components? Not necessarily on a pedagogical level, which is what I'm talking about right now? But you know, I think, yeah, it's, it's quite a tricky beast, you know, we're not used to people explaining particular pedagogical methods. You know, when you come from high school, you do come from someone saying, do it, because I say so.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. Or do it? Or do it just to graduate? Exactly.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah. Do it because you must. Yeah. Which is not the case in art school, right? Like, if you start your first year here, and you know, decide that you're not happy. I'm not going to hold you down and say, please don't leave. I'm going to say, Well, what do you want to be doing? You know, and then help you find a school that better fits what you want? Yeah, I

Alex Villacis:

think that's also like, not just in the school, but in creative education. It's a lot about finding your fascination be like, why you're really interested, because you can say, I want to study photography. I want to be a photographer. What kind of photographer Do you want to be? Why do you want to be the photographer? And when you're doing the self taught route, it might be a little bit aimless. And you don't have those pedagogical, pedagogical tools. Yeah. And that curriculum be like you're going to do a so you can then do B, so you can then see, and you can keep making your your body of water smaller every single time. Yeah, when you're doing it by yourself. It's more like, ready fire aim, and see what happens. So there's a there's a benefit to having that structure.

ginger coons:

Totally. Well, I think I mean, yeah, well, I mean, with with things like graphic design, when you're self taught, the focus is more on the tools. Mm hmm. You know, I mean, it's, it's quite easy to learn the tools. And indeed, a thing here is, we don't spend a lot of time formally teaching the the tools, right, it's not very frequent that you will lend in a class where someone says, in order to make a new page in InDesign, press this button, we don't teach like that. You know that at all? No, it's very uncommon, right? We expect you to go out and learn the software yourself. There are resources right?

Alex Villacis:

There stations, they have workshops.

ginger coons:

Exactly. Yeah, you can take a workshop on how to use InDesign, but that's not part of your core education. And the expectation is that you will go and find it yourself if you need it. You know, we're focusing on conceptual things we're focusing on how do you develop an idea? We're focusing on how do you think about audience right? My God, we're obsessed with, you know, Who is it for? Right? And depending on who it's for, what do you need to do? How do you understand what they need? Right? And I think these are the things that you often don't get when you're self taught, if you go graphic design, that's about things on pages.

Alex Villacis:

But for Who is it? Yeah, it's a lot about buying in. I feel like at least in your self taught as well about yourself, it's about making things for you that you like, and but when you're putting that place of education, formal education, they're like, Okay, what are you making this for? What are their needs? Hold that I found through like my charisma, internship and so on, is that we're not when we, when we get a who, and it's usually a person that's very able, we, I would love to see like a class in which it may be like, you can do it a class in which they say, okay, we're gonna design a website for people who are seeing impaired. How do we do that? How do we go through the contrast? How do we, what what, and probably a lot of people will say like, yeah, letters need to be bigger. Yeah, but then so not only letters need to be bigger. You need to have all texts? What? How do you write all text? How do you include it? What kind of contrast is better? What kind of if you want to add shadow to a button, what effect can that have? In a person who seeing impaired? Yeah. And it was really funny I showed it. I was in a club was from there organised and I was talking about a friend of mine who is an illustrator she wanted to use definitely white text or a yellow background. Ouch. And I thought, that's a choice. That it's good for me. It's good for you. And so if I see next to you, but what if a person who has the slide with just a person that's over 60? Yeah, looks at that. It's not gonna it's not going to be possible. They're not going to recognise and they're not even disabled. They're just in a group that is not you.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

So I think that's great. When you get put in formal education, or when somebody or a mentor or teacher gives you the challenge? What if you're designing for somebody who's not you? Absolutely. Yeah. Or what if you're designing for somebody who doesn't share your values completely? Those are the challenges that you get. And I think that's the key about from education challenges, you've constantly totally because they know what you can achieve, because they have these background of knowledge that they want to impart to you. And because you have great teachers,

Ro Halfhide:

hopefully, hopefully, you have great teachers.

Alex Villacis:

Hopefully, this is I'm putting you as a teacher appointed a great teacher.

ginger coons:

Well, thank you for that. You've only had one lecture from me, you don't know how mean I can be across an entire term.

Alex Villacis:

Well, I've had experiences with you like now and before, and I always like get these energy, like very positive energy. So I hope it stays this way.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

And even if even if you I think even if you were to give me feedback that I like will be like, okay, it's for my benefit. It's not coming from a place of, I just want to feel superior. I'm the teacher, you're the student listens to me will come from a place of, you know, I can do better.

Ro Halfhide:

Yeah, well, honestly, I'm just evil. I only ask questions. Oh, yeah. Oh, yes. I'm one of those

Alex Villacis:

And provide No, no, no visual feedback. You're just like, Okay.

Ro Halfhide:

No, I smile a lot, especially these days. I mean, one big difference with online education is you have to have bigger emotions, because people can't read your sort of micro gestures. Yeah. So often, yeah, I feel like I am on a stage these days, when I'm doing anything online, right? Like, if I have an online exam, if I am happy with something, I have to really make it very clear that I'm happy.

Alex Villacis:

And not just like, slowly not you have to be very aggressively. Exactly. Big nodding, big smiling, you know, more feedback noises, right, because it's not genuinely funny or feedback noises. Like noise maybe an example. Yeah. Or right or good. You know, that's very true. Feedback noises.

ginger coons:

Yeah. This Yeah. I mean, you know, when I'm talking to you like this, I'm trying very hard not to say mmmm mmmmm, because I know that that's gonna mess up the Edit.

Alex Villacis:

But you're already used to it. Yeah. It's gonna be difficult to go back and be like, I can I don't have to move my hands all the time. Exactly. It's what I had them. Yep. From the beginning that I thought, okay, I don't have a screen for me. I don't have to be like, Huh, huh.

ginger coons:

That's it, right? I mean, it's a different way of being.

Alex Villacis:

Always learning.

ginger coons:

Always always. Right. You mean, if you stop learning, what are you doing? Exactly? You're, you are going downhill if you stop learning. You know?

Alex Villacis:

That's very true.

ginger coons:

Yeah, your brain starts deteriorating

Alex Villacis:

The world is a less bright place because you're not curious about anything anymore.

ginger coons:

And also, cognitively, you just sort of you decline when you stop learning.

Alex Villacis:

According to neurologists, yes, it's true.

ginger coons:

They say, Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

But not to end on a sad noteb But we have made it to the end of the episode. Gender is anything you want to promote. It can be your own work, a book that you read a movie that you saw that you really like, and that had an impact on you something that would have an impact, a person that's curious about creative education?

Ro Halfhide:

You know, that is a tricky question. And I'm weirdly unprepared for it.

Alex Villacis:

That's why I didn't put it in the questions.

ginger coons:

And that's why I'm really unprepared because the question was, so I didn't think I had you know, it's really funny. I, well, I have a student who I was supervising on research for graduation, who part of his research for his project was asking people about a book that they find important and think other people should read and why. And he was using this as a way of understanding people's ideological commitments. And so now I can't recommend books anymore. Because I'm so sort of, you know, I have the caterpillar's dilemma, right? Like, I can't bring myself to recommend anything, and say people should read this because I still have my head in his research, and I'm thinking anything I say is totally ideologically loaded. So I can't Don't make any recommendations.

Alex Villacis:

Wow.

ginger coons:

Yeah.

Alex Villacis:

That's so deep. It's for a movie or a cartoon a funny cartoon.

ginger coons:

Oh, funny cartoon. You know, okay, so my favourite is not funny. Okay, but my favourite anime film of all time is whisper of the heart from Studio Ghibli.

Alex Villacis:

Of course, Studio Ghibli, iconic

ginger coons:

But it's it's one of the early ones, right? It's from the 90s. Yeah. And it's really lovely. It's about to, Oh, perfect. Okay, I've got the connection. It's a coming of age story about a teenage girl who writes a novel. So she's trying to find herself and what she's good at. And so she challenges herself over the summer to write a novel. And then, you know, a lot of it is about the sort of, yeah, coming to terms with the fact that it's not as good as she thought it would be. So really great movie very good for creative people.

Alex Villacis:

That is, so we have it whisper of the heart from Studio Ghibli. Well, thank you so much, ginger, for joining us today.

Ro Halfhide:

Thank you. It's been fun.

Alex Villacis:

Is anybody else just about the idea of doing a PhD now? Honestly, I am I keep thinking, what can I focus on? What can I zero in to do a PhD? Maybe podcasting? I don't know. I guess my question to you would be, what would you do a PhD on? Is there anything that you can zero in? Maybe you want to do a PhD in joshy? Silence, arguably one of the best games there is in the world? I'm not saying that? Because I'm obsessed with it? I'm saying it because generally good. But, again, if you were to do a PhD in anything, what would it be? reach out to me on social media? And let me know, what will you like to do a PhD on? And yeah, let's have a blast. Thank you, friend for joining me today in this conversation. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you picked up something from it. You'll find all the information to my guests social media, to their website, to the best way to contact them in the show notes as well as a transcript of this episode. Why I do transcripts, because not everybody has English as their first language. A lot of people have disabilities. A lot of people just don't enjoy listening to podcasts, but maybe they want to read this conversation. So you'll find links to that in our website, which is also in the show notes, as well as our social media handles, and etc. And if you wish to support the podcast in any way, just send me a DM they brighten up my day. They're so fun. And there's also a link if you want to buy me a coffee. I love coffee. That's also nice. And you can also leave us a review in Apple podcasts or whatever platform you use to listen to podcast. And I think I'll make a newsletter. I'm honestly not sure. I'm still thinking about it. Maybe Maybe after Episode 10 I'll figure it out. But yeah, anything you want to do to support us will appreciate it and I hope you have an amazing day. Keep learning and stay curious.